For laundering cloth nappies it is easier with a washing machine, but washing by hand is not nearly as awful as it sounds. I have washed nappies by hand whilst on holiday, rather than splurging on chemical laden disposables, a bit of elbow grease and sunshine later and the nappies were ready for wear again. Here's a great tutorial on how to hand wash cloth nappies.
My top tip is to buy as many nappies as you can afford, I started off with 10, and I regret not buying more sooner as it meant I was doing nappy laundry nearly every day, and my sons nappies are looking so worn now, a year later. The more nappies you have, the fewer loads of laundry you need to do, although I don't recommend leaving soiled nappies for longer than two days.
|Image Credit: rastis100 on Flickr|
Many people recommend using nappy liners, I myself have never found them necessary, however I can see their benefits when taking care of pooh nappies once baby is on solids. If you are using nappy liners, simply place the wet liners on the compost heap, and soiled ones can be flushed down the loo... so buy the biodegradable ones! Nappy liners are essential if your baby has nappy rash, and you are using a rash cream, as most creams will stain nappies and interfere with their absorb-ability. For this you could also make your own reusable liners by cutting up an old receiving blanket.
So lets start at the beginning, what to do with wet and soiled nappies.There are two options for storing dirty nappies, you can either store them in a dry pail - as I do, or store them in a wet pail, soaking in a nappy soak solution. I find the dry pail much easier to deal with, and less smelly, as long as your pail has a lid. Nappies shouldn't spend long periods of time wet, so I only soak mine on occasion, a couple of hours before I put them in the machine, this soaking helps if the nappies are retaining smells.
If the nappy is wet, simply separate the different parts if needs be (remove the inner with pocket nappies etc) and place in the pail till wash day. This makes it easier to empty the pail into the washing machine, and you don't need to fiddle with nappies later on - they wash better when all the parts are separated.
If the nappy is soiled and your baby is exclusively breastfed then separate the parts and store in the nappy pail with the lid on till wash day - breastfed pooh is water soluble. When Jesse was exclusively breastfed (up until he was about 11 months old) and did a pooh only every three or four days, I would make sure I did nappy laundry on those days, which kept things much less smelly.
If your baby is eating solids, then his pooh is no longer going to be water soluble, and should get thicker and thicker the more solid food he eats, you could use liners and essentially just remove the pooh with the liner and flush both. Alternatively, if you don't use liners, you could simply shake the majority of the pooh off into the toilet bowel, as I do, some people even give the nappy a swish around whilst flushing. The last option is to install a nappy sprayer (or a hand-held bidet spray) and spray the pooh off into the toilet. Once the pooh is flushed, separate the nappy parts and store in the nappy pail till wash day.
With soiled nappies it may be an idea to use some sort of pre-wash treatment for stains, I have never needed to, and you would need to find one that is cloth nappy safe.
On washing day,Simply empty your pail of nappies into your washing machine, and put them on a rinse and spin cycle only, to rid the nappies of most of the urine, and any leftover pooh bits. If your nappies are retaining smells, add a cup of white vinegar to this rinse, you may need to add it directly to the drum as most machines wont empty the detergent compartment on a rinse and spin only.
After this, put the nappies on a long / heavy wash, on a warm temperature, but not exceeding 50°. You can wash nappies on cold only, but I find they come cleaner on a low temperature, I usually put mine on 30°. I recommend using an ecological and enzyme free detergent, these are a bit difficult to find in South Africa, but I have used the one from Woolworths with some success. Use less than the detergent recommends, I use about a quarter of a cap full. Most mainstream commercial laundry detergents contain fragrances, optical brighteners and enzymes, all of which can remain in your nappies once they're washed and cause irritation on baby's skin, especially when met with urine.
Once the nappies have been on this long wash, it is important to give them another rinse and spin cycle. The nappies need to rinse until there are no more suds left, or even a hint of a sud left when rinsing. You can use a cup of vinegar in this rinse for added softness and as an anti-bacterial, just check with your nappy manufacturer, as some advise against using vinegar. Don't use commercial fabric softener, as it will disturb the absorb-ability of your nappies, and give your baby a nasty rash!
Line drying is the best way to dry nappies, hang them with the inside facing the sun as the sun will bleach it and get rid of any lingering odours, and stains. Most nappies however, can be tumble-dried, just check the manufacturers recommendations on temperature.
Every couple of months,You may find that your nappies are retaining smells, and/or are not absorbing as well as usual. Then it is time to strip them, this basically refers to removing all build ups of smells, and detergent residues. Most people use dish liquid to strip their nappies, I advise doing this in a bucket as a soak on already clean nappies, as dish liquid could harm your washing machine. Use hot water, and let them soak for a good while, then add a bit of elbow grease and give them a good hand wash. After this, put them in your machine and do a ton of rinses, making sure all the suds are gone. You will know it is time to do a strip when the nappies get a strong urine smell when wet.
If this doesn't remove all the smells, it may be necessary to boil your nappies (literally put them in a pot of water on the stove and boil) ... smells originate from bacteria, so essentially you need to kill the bacteria. Make sure your nappies are safe to be boiled, so no plastic poppers etc, I use Fuzzibunz and therefore only ever boil the inners. I have only done this once, and I found using vinegar as a rinse cut out the need for me to do it ever again.
Teaser: For the last two weeks I have been reviewing a product that gets rid of the need to use detergent when doing washing, I will be writing a full review in the near future, but just let me leave you with this thought... no detergent, which means no more extra rinses, AND the nappies are still coming out as clean as ever! Watch this space for a full write up! :)
For even more information on laundering cloth nappies, you can visit the following links:
Washing Cloth Diapers at The Other Baby Book
Stir It Together, My Favorite Cloth Diaper and Cloth Wipe Wash Recipes at Touchstonez
Putting It All on the Line, Occam’s Razor Cloth Diaper Washing at Touchstonez